Lawyer Medardo G. de Lemos, former head of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Central Visayas that is based in Cebu City, is now the new NBI director.

I met him during my days covering the justice beat, which included the NBI, and I write to reminisce about him now because it is an appointment that I feel is justly deserved.

Attorney de Lemos is from the ranks and has served the agency for 37 years. He has been No. 2 at the Bureau for the last 12 years since his recall to Manila in 2010 from the NBI 7 post, and has discharged the function of officer-in-charge on two occasions.

Ludgi to friends, de Lemos entered the NBI Academy in Baguio in 1985, right after finishing his law studies at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Manila and passing the bar. Back then, only lawyers and certified public accountants may join the country’s elite investigative service.

He completed the training and then cut his teeth on cases supervised by agents who later had movies made of their exploits.

De Lemos had already come into his own when he got ordered to head the NBI contingent to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), under the overall command of Panfilo Lacson in 1998.

As a key part of the task force, de Lemos took part in solving kidnap-for-ransom cases that were rife at that time, as well as going after drug traffickers, smugglers and other syndicates.

When PAOCTF was disbanded in 2001, de Lemos returned to his mother unit and was assigned to take over the NBI Bicol Regional Office, where he stayed until October of 2004.

That year, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez ordered him to take over NBI 7 from Reynaldo Esmeralda, who was facing allegations that his investigation into the murder of Cebu lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco, private prosecutor in the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr., was becoming a coverup.

The NBI is under the operational control of the Department of Justice.

Spartan in his ways and unassuming in his demeanor, de Lemos came to Cebu within a day after getting his orders.

He took over the agency bogged by a lot of baggage: The fallout from the infamous 2003 turkey shoot by civilian agents of a van full of Plantation Bay workers they mistook to be that of a drug suspect; the Yongco coverup; and, a mystery surrounding an official driving around vehicles even his superiors could not otherwise afford on a government paycheck.

He rented a room in a student dorm within walking distance from the NBI office, and walked to and from work for six years.

With the way he was, you’d never expect him to be a regular lecturer at the Philippine Judicial Academy, explaining to would-be judges the concept of lethal force in the context of law enforcement, nor a graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Under de Lemos, NBI 7 became the best regional field unit outside of Metro Manila multiple times.

And there was a shift in the kinds of cases the agency took—from almost exclusively investigating suspected smuggling, involving people who rarely ever get brought to court—to more mundane but impactful cases involving public officials seeking bribes. One case involved a Cebu City policeman the NBI caught in a sting after demanding money from a drug suspect. The incident led to the disbanding of the unit the policeman was a member of.

Another sting led to the arrest and indictment of an election registrar from Negros Oriental who allegedly demanded money to rule favorably on an election disqualification case.

In 2008, the NBI even broke up a suspected syndicate operating inside City Hall. The group allegedly specialized in making fake tax declarations.

But, best of all, during his time, the NBI took environmental cases, conducted seaborne anti-illegal fishing patrols, and ran after dynamite gear producers, including a municipal councilor from Medellin, Cebu, charging them with possession of explosives.

We deserve to see more of that under the leadership of Ludgi de Lemos.